10/12/2005 12:00AM

Gun Salute has few foes in derby


STICKNEY, Ill. - It is beginning to look a lot like winter at Hawthorne Race Course - low clouds, maiden claimers. But a last breath of summer blows into town Saturday: Gun Salute, winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat in his last start, tops the prospective field for the Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby.

And it's a short field that he tops. As of Wednesday, the local derby, run at 1/18 miles on grass, had only five firm starters. Cosmic Kris, Embossed, Thunder Mission, and a horse named Yak the Desert Rat will try to upset the heavy favorite.

Gun Salute, based with trainer Bill Mott's string at Churchill Downs, will arrive by van midday Friday, according to assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy, who has worked with Gun Salute since the spring. Mott won last year's Hawthorne Derby with Cool Conductor, who also shipped from Kentucky.

Gun Salute, given a break after his 1 1/2-length win over English Channel in the Secretariat, has breezed steadily at Churchill Downs. While Gun Salute never has raced on dirt, he does all his training, including breezes, on the main track, and McCarthy said Gun Salute gets plenty out of his dirt work.

"He's doing absolutely wonderful," McCarthy said. "He couldn't be doing any better."

Co-featured on Saturday, the last day of stakes racing for a month, is the $150,000 Hawthorne Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Lacking a standout like Gun Salute, the local Oaks is expected to have a significantly larger field than the derby, with at least eight and perhaps 10 or 11 starters. Isla Cozzene and You Dancing Devil - the third- and fourth-place finishers in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington - and Dearest Queen could wind up the favorites in what appears to be a wide-open race.

Catalano duo heads to Keeneland

The Wayne Catalano barn hardly took a deep breath between race meets. After dominating at Arlington, Catalano was on top of the Hawthorne trainer standings as of Monday, with 8 wins from only 23 starters.

At the end of training hours Wednesday morning, however, Catalano's attention was focused on getting a couple horses off the Hawthorne backstretch: the promising 2-year-old Lewis Michael and Liz on Polk Street were boarding a horse trailer headed for Keeneland. Lewis Michael, who finished second to Laity in his career debut and won a maiden turf race in his second time out, will start in a grass allowance race, while Liz on Polk Street will try to add a graded stakes success to her resume in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes.

Liz on Polk Street's career has been solid if unspectacular, but she looked good winning an overnight sprint stakes at Arlington last out, and has continued to do well. Her pedigree is high-end (Liz on Polk Street's dam, Silver Maiden, was a Grade 1 winner), and the idea is to enhance Liz on Polk Street's record for breeding purposes before the end of her racing career.

"She's doing super, and that's the time to go for it," Catalano said. "If she could win, great, and if she could get graded stakes placed, that'd be great, too."

Humor at Last will wait to travel

A couple of barns east of Catalano, trainer Jerry Calvin also has Keeneland on his mind. But Calvin is waiting until Thursday to ship Humor at Last for the Perryville Stakes on Friday.

"We shipped the day before last time, and it worked pretty good, so we'll try the same thing again," Calvin said.

For his last start, Humor at Last was driven to Turfway Park, where he finished a good second in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint, his best race since late last year. An Illinois-bred, Humor at Last has come around again after a difficult first half of his career, and on Sunday he turned in a solid final work for the Perryville.

"I think he's every bit as good as he was going into the last one," Calvin said.

One more for Bluesbdancing

Bluesbdancing confirmed her position as one of the best Illinois-bred 3-year-old fillies this year with a good win over open fourth-level allowance horses here last week, and she is on track for a start in the Powerless Handicap on the Nov. 12 card of Illinois-bred stakes races.

Bluesbdancing was on the shelf for most of this season, but won a comeback race in an overnight sprint stakes on Million Day at Arlington. She was somewhat flat in her next race - her trainer, Terrel Gore, said Bluesbdancing wasn't herself that day - but returned to form with her six-furlong victory last week. The six-furlong Powerless Handicap probably will be her final start this season, Gore said.

Bid looks good in feature

There are plenty of horses entered for Friday's 10-race card here, just not that many especially fast horses. The day's highest-class race is the seventh, an entry-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles on grass. The race drew a full field of 12, with Bid perhaps the one to beat.

Bid needed $50,000 maiden claiming company to belatedly score his first win, but that six-length victory two starts back at Arlington was visually impressive, and Bid had no luck when he finished third in a first-level turf allowance here Sept. 23.

While contenders like Editor's Cat are somewhat suspect over 1 1/8 miles, the distance suits Bid, who nearly won at 1 1/4 miles at Belmont earlier this year.